Jerry Resigns Anthony Spencer: Impact on the Draft?

Anthony Spencer coming back to Dallas on the rebound.

Anthony Spencer coming back to Dallas on the rebound.

In a blog back in March, I said to look for Jerry Jones to resign Anthony Spencer on the cheap and now he has. It’s a one year deal that can be worth $3.5 million for Spencer. In that previous blog, I pointed out how Jerry “fills needs” so he can go on a unrestricted drafting binge.

The Jerry Jones Dictionary:
“To fill needs”– Sign players at key position needs prior to the draft, who are recovering from major injuries and therefore come cheap. Often players 30 years old or over (considered past prime in NFL). Occasionally possess known significant character deficiencies that make other teams label them as high risk. In the view of some fans, a tactic implemented by the self indulgent owner to save money and justify an absence of a real drafting strategy.

Example: “After his major knee surgery, and since no one else would sign him, I signed the 30 year old Anthony Spencer for a fraction of what he made last season so that I can now draft yet another pass receiver, or whatever I happen to desire at the time, and not have to be bothered with drafting a real 4-3 type defensive end.”

Heading into the 2014 draft in May, picking up a quality DE has been ranked as a high priority for Dallas by about any NFL draft analyst you may read. Big shoes to be filled with Ware gone to the Broncos.

But now that they have Spencer back, should Jerry consider the DE position all taken care of? While I don’t see this one year deal as a bad investment, I think it would be a mistake to assume that Spencer will be all they need at DE in 2014. Having said that, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Jerry not address the DE position in the draft by making a late round pick or not at all.

After all, it was Jerry who told us prior to the 2013 season that defensive line was a strength for the team with Ratliff returning from injury and Ware a sure bet to adapt to DE. How that work out for us? Turned out Ratliff wasn’t ready to play and Ware never hit his stride as a DE in the 4-3 so Jerry was left signing any defensive linemen he could find. It was classic Jerry Jones and the results speak for themselves.

While many Dallas fans may feel reassured by the signing of A.S. and he is inexpensive, I don’t feel so good about it and here is why I’m concerned about Spencer next season.

My Concerns with Spencer:

1. Injury & Age: In week 2, Spencer injured his left knee which caused him to miss the entire season. He finished the season with just two tackles. At 30 years old he is attempting to recover from microfracture knee surgery.

His agent said in September that he would be fully recovered by February 2014 but recently it’s reported that he hopes to be available by preseason in July. He is jogging now. Some fans point out that he is rehabbing at Valley Ranch so by signing him, Jerry feels good about progress. But Spencer took a visit to the East rival Giants and Redskins who didn’t offer a contract. An indication those teams didn’t feel good about it.

I think the fact is at this point, no one really knows when Spencer will be able to return to action or how his knee will hold up to 16 games in the trenches as a hand on the ground DE. Playing DE is even tougher on the body than OLB and the departed Ware indicated that was indeed the case.

2. Position Change: For 6 years, Spencer has played OLB in a 3-4 defense. He had one very good season that being in 2012 a contract season. (funny how that goes right) Now he is being asked to convert to DE at 30 years old. It’s fair to say that during his career, Spencer has been a more effective run defender than pass rusher. He was often criticized for a lack of sack production as he reached double digit sacks only once in his career.

Marinelli’s 4-3 defense is about getting after the QB and they need a DE who can provide a significant pass rush. Playing OLB is more about playing in space while playing DE, is more about playing in the trenches. Even if Spencer’s knee holds up, I’m not convinced he is an ideal fit at defensive end in this 4-3 defense. Believe it when I see it.

Final Take:
Fans can debate whether bringing Spencer back was a smart move or not and time will tell but we can all agree Dallas must get younger on their defensive line. Attempting to squeeze another year out of a banged up veteran is just the Jerry Jones “same old-same old” and as far as their defensive line goes, the future is now.

I’m convinced Jerry and Stephen need to draft a DE early like by the third round, or they may regret it.


NFL to Penalize Goal Post Dunks in 2014

Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson started the goal post dunk.

Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson started the goal post dunk.

Is the NFL really becoming the “no fun league?” Recently the NFL announced that dunking the football over goal post will result in a penalty. Some may think that the goal post dunks started with TE Tony Gonzalez but it actually began with former Cowboys linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson.

In 1975, Henderson ran a 97 yard TD and slammed it. It wouldn’t be the only time he did it either.VIDEO of HENDERSON I watched that Henderson dunk as a young child and thought it was the coolest thing I ever saw.

How does Henderson feel about the rule change? In March he commented on twitter:
“The dunk over goal post I created week 2 1975 after running 97 yards for TD is a penalty now. Good. Commentators never gave me credit anyway”

Now that comment is classic Henderson. Love to see after all these years and at 61, Thomas from Austin, Texas still has the swag that earned him the nickname “Hollywood” back in the day. Hollywood wasn’t a typical Tom Landry kind of player as he marched to his own beat for sure. A “character” some would call him but he went by Hollywood.

Why the rule change? We can likely thank Saints TE Jimmy Graham who caused a major delay last season in a Thursday night game against the Falcons when he bent the crossbar with a dunk. Graham has kind of ruined it for everyone else so we may refer to it as the “Jimmy Graham rule” next time someone does it and is penalized. graham dunk

Henderson didn’t bend the crossbar and since he played defense, he surely didn’t get as many opportunities as Graham does playing in the pass happy Saints offense. In my view, Henderson’s celebratory dunks were justified since he didn’t see the endzone very often.

Some may recall that as a linebacker Henderson was an outstanding KO returner. Coach Mike Dikta would call a reverse on the KO which gave the ball to Henderson behind a wall of blockers along the sideline. It was a thing of beauty to watch unfold. He ran it to perfection with his amazing 4.3/40 speed.

Henderson was drafted as part of the “dirty dozen” of 1975. Referring to 12 rookies who made the team and helped Dallas make it to super bowl X.

Henderson’s NFL career was short as he developed a cocaine addiction that became his downfall. Happy to report that he has been clean since 1983.

In 2000, Henderson won the Texas Lotto of $28 million dollars. When asked by the Dallas Morning News what he does every day having won the lottery, Henderson responded, “Not a damn thing, and I don’t start that until after lunch.”

Now that’s classic Henderson.

Dallas Cowboys 2014 NFL Schedule: Another Tough Finish in December

Tonight the NFL released the NFL schedule for 2014.

The Dallas Cowboys start with a home game against the 49ers. That’s a tough way to start a season. Also I notice that after their bye week, 4 of their last 6 games are on the road including 3 of those 6 games in prime time. A Sunday night game at the Giants, a Thursday night game at the Bears, then a Sunday night game at the Eagles.

Tough finish: Not only are 4 of 6 games on the road at the end, but 3 of the last 4 games in December (a traditionally tough month for Dallas) are away games.

The AFC teams on the schedule don’t appear that difficult to me, but the non division opponents from the NFC West, look brutal. (Seahawks, 49ers, Cardinals,)

Spoiler Alert: They will finish 8-8 after losing their “play in game” at Washington. How do I know? Because it’s the Jason Garrett coached Cowboys and that’s what they do. Go ahead and watch the season if you like, but it’s as if the NFL scripts this stuff like pro wrestling.

-Five opponents made the playoffs last season.
-The away game with Jacksonville is actually played in London.
-A Monday night game at home in October against the Redskins.
-Division champ Eagles on Thanksgiving.

2014 Dallas Cowboys Schedule

Sept. 7 San Francisco 49ers, 4:25

Sept. 14 at Tennessee Titans, 1

Sept. 21 at St. Louis Rams, 1

Sept. 28 New Orleans Saints, 8:30

Oct. 5 Houston Texans, 1

Oct. 12 at Seattle Seahawks, 4:25

Oct. 19 New York Giants, 4:25

Oct. 27 Washington Redskins (Mon), 8:30

Nov. 2 Arizona Cardinals, 1

Nov. 9 at Jacksonville Jaguars (London), 1

Nov. 16 BYE

Nov. 23 at New York Giants, 8:30*

Nov. 27 Philadelphia Eagles (Thu), 4:30

Dec. 4 at Chicago Bears (Thu), 8:25

Dec. 14 at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:30*

Dec. 21 Indianapolis Colts, 4:25

Dec. 28 at Washington Redskins, 1

Week by Week NFL schedule HERE

Could Jerry Jones Trade Down Again in the NFL Draft?

Recently I looked at the possibility of Dallas trading up in the draft. Now a look at a trade down.

In the 2013 NFL draft, Jerry Jones traded down from 18 to take center Travis Frederick at 31. He swapped places with the S.F. 49ers and picked up an additional 3rd round pick in exchange. Last season Dallas came into the draft with only 6 picks so adding another pick was logical enough.

On one hand, Frederick was a starter every game in 2013 at center and played well for a rookie. Turned out to be a very good run blocker but still needs to improve pass blocking.

But at the combine Frederick ran the second slowest 40 time of all offensive linemen and benched only 21 reps, soft by NFL linemen standards. Compare that to current DT prospect Aaron Donald who benched 35 reps!

That’s why most experts had Frederick ranked as a 3rd round pick while no one, except Jerry, as a first round pick.

Jerry Missed Opportunity:
I’m playing a little Monday morning GM here, but the 49ers drafted safety Eric Reid (in the Cowboys spot) who made the Pro Bowl his rookie season with 4 interceptions. Later Jerry drafted safety JJ Wilcox in the third who couldn’t even secure a starting spot on a weak Cowboy pass defense that had no other option at safety than an undrafted rookie, Jeff Heath.

So in the humble opinion of this fan/blogger, it’s why GM Jerry Jones remains a 8-8 mediocre team for three consecutive seasons. In the 2013 draft, he could have gotten an all pro safety at 18 (Reid), then picked up his preferred center (Frederick) in either the 2nd or even 3rd round. That would have been more productive.

Nothing against drafting Frederick understand, but Jerry could have had his cake and ate it too, as the saying goes, and that’s what this draft business is all about.

Trade Down in 2014 draft?
With 11 picks already in their possession, accumulating additional picks in the draft should not be a priority for Dallas. However, in certain scenarios I can see Jerry trading down.

If the prospects Dallas wants most are off the board, then trading down for more value can make sense. Recently Dallas brought in DT prospects Aaron Donald and Timmy Jernigan but if those two go off the board prior to 16, (and they could) then I think Jerry could consider a trade down.

There will be teams interested in taking the Cowboys’ 16th spot as WR Mike Evans and TE Eric Ebron are prospects other teams would like to pick and may still be on the board at that point. However they don’t really satisfy a major need for Dallas.

Possible picks for Dallas late in the first round after a trade down:

1. DE, Kony Ealy: Drafting a DE must be a priority for Dallas to replace the departed Ware. Ealy represents a very athletic pass rusher with a lot of upside potential. Currently the 6-4, 273 lb. Ealy is the 3rd ranked DE in the draft and is expected to get drafted in the late first round. Drafting him at 16 feels like a reach but getting him late in the first while adding a 3rd round pick, feels much better.

2. DT, RaShede Hageman: Another position of need for Dallas will be DT but with Donald and Jernigan off the board prior to their pick at 16, Hageman represents a quality pick late in the first round. Hageman has very good size at 6-6, 310 lbs and is currently the 4th ranked DT in the draft. Hageman is very versatile on the defensive line and will help Dallas right away in both the 3 and 1 techniques.

Getting Hageman late in the first round while adding another pick later, could be a solid move in this scenario.

3. DE, Dee Ford: Ford was very impressive in the Senior Bowl and is clearly one of the best pure pass rushers in the draft. Many think he will fit best as a OLB in a 3-4 defense but by adding a little size, he could play DE in the 4-3 too. Ford has outstanding quickness to beat offensive tackles on the edge and would be a big contributor for the Cowboys pass rush. Because of his smaller weight, he figures to be more of a liability in run defense.

Overall, Ford would be a good late first round value.

Final Take:
Going into the draft with 11 picks, Dallas really doesn’t need to try to trade for additional picks. I actually think trading up makes more sense than trading down in this draft but if things aren’t going their way on draft night, then trading down my be a justifiable option. Drafting defensive linemen is the priority and in Ealy, Hageman, and Ford they can find value late in the first round.

Could Jerry Jones Trade Up in the NFL Draft?

Jerry traded up to take Claiborne in 2012

Jerry traded up to take Claiborne in 2012

Don’t have to go back very far to have an example of Jerry Jones making a surprise trade up in the draft. In the 2012 draft, Jerry traded away a 2nd round pick to move up from 14 and take CB Morris Claiborne with the 6th pick. Was that move worth it? The verdict about Claiborne as a NFL corner is still out but so far, it would be described as “disappointing” by most fans.

Claiborne has had several injuries, made a few plays, and had some bad days. Making the switch from Ryan’s defense to Kiffin’s defense certainly created challenges. I’m not ready to label Mo a bust pick yet, but he better show us something in 2014. Just sayin’.

That surprise move by Jerry back in 2012, certainly appeared to be all about Jerry making a splash as Claiborne had not even visited Valley Ranch prior to the draft. It’s fair to describe the move as “impulsive” and Jerry can certainly be unpredictable on draft day. Jerry loves him some attention during the draft.

“Makin’ a Splash”
In the movie “Draft Day” with Kevin Costner, the owner talks to the GM (Costner) about making a draft pick that makes a splash as they are walking around a closed water park that serves as a rather unsubtle metaphor.
“People pay to get wet”. – from Movie “Draft Day”

The owner is focused on marketing the team and seeks the headline pick that will create excitement among the fan base. Put “butts in the seats” as the expression goes. But the Browns’ owner in the movie isn’t primarily focused on building a winning team. Clearly trading up just to make a splash isn’t a good reason to do it. But don’t put it past the Cowboys owner.

Jerry recently commented that while the Cowboys haven’t had a playoff team in years, they still draw a crowd in TV ratings. ARTICLE
I’m not at all surprised Jerry looks at it that way. Actually kind of had that figured but I was a little surprised that even he would be so bold as to say it out loud. That’s exactly the kind of mindset that will be inclined to trade up and take a big name pick. A symbolism over substance approach, if you will.

Target and Partner Required
To consider a trade up, there must be a target or a player that they believe can be a real difference maker for them. To cut a deal, they will need a dance partner or another GM willing to move down from a pick. Let’s take a look at some of the possible targets for Dallas to trade up on draft day. Dallas does have 11 picks to play with although their three compensatory picks in the 7th round, aren’t allowed to be traded.

Target 1
DE Jadeveon Clowney: This would certainly be considered a bold “go big or go home” move but I’m starting with Clowney because he is the highest rated DE in the draft and Dallas certainly needs a DE with Ware gone to the Broncos.

Clowney has freakish athletic ability that doesn’t come along every draft with a rare combination of speed and size. He would demand accountability from offensive lines that would make all the other defensive linemen around him better. His impact on the Cowboys defense would be profound and immediate. The kind of defender a coach could move around and cause major headaches for his opponent.

Worth it?
It’s not difficult to make the case that Dallas could use a Clowney on their defensive line but would it be worth what it would cost to move up in the draft? Clowney is expected to go very early like in the top 5 picks. Moving up will take a similar offer that got them Claiborne in 2012 and even more. Clowney’s motor has been questioned and that must be a consideration. He’s not a sure thing. But then who is?

Partner Rams: The Rams own the 2nd pick and also the 13th pick. The Texans have the first pick but many speculate they will go QB with that pick. It could be argued that defensive end is not a huge need for the Rams and with the 13th pick, may not want to pay two picks that high in the draft anyway. The Rams may be willing to talk about trading out of that 2nd pick.

Target 2
QB Johnny Manziel: I actually called for Jerry Jones to draft Manziel back in December 2012 after he won the Heisman. HERE

I’m not the only one that wonders how QB Tony Romo will hold up after two back surgeries, as recently former Dallas super bowl winning QB Troy Aikman expressed concern.
“two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.” -Troy Aikman

Romo just turned 34 and let’s face it, Dallas needs to start thinking about who their future QB will be. “Johnny Football” is a unique talent and I love the way he competes. Aikman thinks he is going to be a good one too.

“I wasn’t in Houston for the workout, but I think he’s (Manziel) got an opportunity to really have a special career, and I’ll be pulling for that to happen.” -Aikman

If Johnny Football was wearing the star on his helmet, it would never be boring, I can guarantee you that. This pick energizes a fan base for sure if that’s the priority, but he also may win some games too.

Worth it?
It’s not real clear where Manziel could get picked but he is projected to go in the top 10 picks. A franchise type QB for the future doesn’t come along every draft so those are the type positions worth moving up for. I’m not even sure if Manziel is on the Cowboys radar or not, but if he slips down to around 10, they should think about it.

Target 3
DT Aaron Donald: Early in the post season Donald was considered a 2nd round prospect but he performed well Senior Bowl week then he went out and destroyed the combine, by displaying outstanding speed and strength. He helped himself and now is considered the highest ranked DT in the draft. Once a possibility for Dallas at 16, Donald is now likely to go before their pick.

Marinelli’s defense needs a strong 3 technique defensive tackle like the Broncos offense needs a Peyton Manning. And Aaron Donald is exactly what Marinelli would order if he could order a DT like a pizza. Donald would make an immediate impact on the Dallas defense in pressuring QBs and he would certainly thrive in their 4-3 defense. Donald visited Valley Ranch last week and is a player Dallas is considering for sure.

Worth it?
Of all the possible trade ups, this one may make the most sense for Dallas and appears reasonably obtainable. Speculation is that the Bears, who run a very similar defense as Dallas and enter the draft with similar needs, will pick Donald at 14 just ahead of Dallas at 16. Moving up just a little, could land Dallas a player that will turn their weak defense around quickly.

Partner Rams: Again the Rams have the 2nd pick and a 13th pick. If the Giants don’t take Donald at 12, then by moving into the Rams 13th spot, Dallas could intercept Donald from the Bears. And since the Bears took DT Jay Ratliff from Dallas last year, that could feel kind of good. Like high fives in the war room good.

After making the 2nd pick in the draft, the Rams may be willing to move down just a couple spots to select their next player. The Rams need more than defensive linemen.

Final Take:
I’ve provided three players worth considering a trade up. Three players that would be game changers for the Cowboys. Clowney is probably going to require more than it’s worth and Manziel becomes more intriguing if he should fall in the draft a little.

Moving up just ahead of the Bears to select Donald my be a move to look for on draft day.
RELATED: Could Jerry Trade Down?

Final Dallas Cowboys 2014 NFL Mock Draft: All 11 picks

Jerry and Stephen in the war room

Jerry and Stephen in the war room

Frankly I’m not one who subscribes to the “best available player” approach to drafting. Who is to say who the best player available is anyway, Mel Kiper? The experts often don’t agree and have been proven wrong time and time again in past drafts. The NFL is a win right now league and a GM best draft players who can come in and make an impact very soon. That means determining who may best fit into your system on offense and defense. For example, what good is it to draft a best available player who is a OLB for a 3-4 defense if you really need a DE for your 4-3 defense?

In this my final 2014 mock draft for the Cowboys, I’ve carefully selected players that can uniquely fit into the current schemes particularly on defense, where upgrades in 4-3 personnel are greatly needed. I’ve tried to be realistic about when players can be picked based on their current rankings which in some cases, have shifted a lot in recent months.

Aaron Donald
In my previous mock draft, I had DT Aaron Donald going to Dallas in the first round and I still think he is the best pick for that Dallas defense. But as Donald continues to climb up the board (currently 14 over all), I must consider a first round plan B if Donald is drafted before 16.

If Donald is off the Board before Dallas is on the clock? I’m sticking with filling the need of getting a defensive tackle.

1st Round: DT Timmy Jernigan- Florida State
I actually think Jernigan could be a very effective one technique for the Cowboys defensive line and compliment the play of former Bear Henry Melton at the three technique. Provided Melton returns to his old form, he can provide the pass pressure up the middle getting after QBs while Jernigan can stuff the run inside. An effective 1-2 punch. Both Donald and Jernigan have visited valley Ranch and would appear to be on the Cowboys radar.

Here is what I said about Jernigan in my analysis on defensive tackle prospects:
Strengths– Quick feet-Not great straight line speed but surprisingly very good quickness moving laterally.
Hands- I really like how Jernigan uses his hands to control the blocker and disengage form the blocker to pursue the ball.
Run defender– Jernigan is an excellent defender against the run. He gets off blockers, slides down the line to collapse the hole and stuff the runner. Appears more like a LB when he pursues the ball.

Weakness-Just an average pass rusher. Not very productive in sacks last season with just 4.5.

Fit for Dallas-
Very Good- I think Jernigan would improve the Cowboys run defense significantly right away. He is probably more of a 1 tech. than 3 tech. but I think he can handle both. Jernigan will be excellent on run plays but on 3rd down may not be a great help against the pass.

Draft: Third ranked DT and expected to go in the first round. Some mocks who think Donald will be off the board, have Dallas picking Jernigan instead.
Conditioning? A lot has been made of the National Championship game when Jernigan appeared to run out of gas against Auburn. Jernigan is not a large appliance type DT that kills grass like you see in some larger DTs. Jernigan plays with tremendous effort and energy which is a good fit in the Cowboys 4-3 defense. He flies around to the ball and it’s important to have him part of a rotation on the defensive line that keeps him ready to go late in the game. Don’t keep him out there every snap.

With this first selection of a DT, Dallas forms a defensive line that is younger, quicker, more athletic, and presents a lot for offensive lines to deal with.

2nd Round: DE Kareem Martin- UNC
Martin was previously my 3rd round pick but now it’s official that Ware will not be with Dallas next year so I think it becomes more critical that Dallas add a defensive end. Kareem Martin’s ranking has been on the rise (now 46 overall CBS sports) so I think Dallas will need to take him with their 2nd pick since Martin won’t likely be around by their 3rd pick.

At 6-6, 272 Martin has ideal size for a 4-3 defensive end which he played at North Carolina. In fact, Martin was recruited by former UNC coach Butch Davis who coached the defensive line for Dallas during their super bowl wins of the 90s. Martin has the longest arms of any DE prospects in the draft which help him control offensive linemen. He is excellent against the run.

Last season Martin had 11 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. While his strength is defending the run, he has tremendous potential to develop as a pass rusher. He needs to be coached up a bit in that area and Coach Marinelli can provide that teaching.

Last season Martin had flashes of outstanding play and then disappeared at times too but he played his best football down the final stretch of the season. I think Coach Marinelli is the kind of coach that can get the most out of a high ceiling talent like Martin.

With this selection, Dallas replaces Ware by picking up a true “plug and play” 4-3 defensive end with tremendous upside potential.

3rd Round: OG Cyril Richardson: Baylor or Guard Gabe Jackson Miss. State
Previously I had Dallas taking guard Gabe Jackson of Miss. St. in the 2nd round but with Dallas getting a much needed DE in the 2nd, now they pick up a guard in the 3rd round to solidify their improved offensive line. Currently, there are no guards listed on the roster behind Leary and Bernadeau who both have a history of injuries.

Recently, Jackson has dropped a little so he may be available for Dallas as a third round pick. If so, I give Jackson a slight edge over Richardson but if Jackson is gone, then Richardson is a solid pick. Both represent depth and even an upgrade over their current guards for years to come.

Richardson was named to the All American Team as a guard last season. He also has experience playing offensive tackle too and was actually protecting RG3 at tackle a couple years ago. Not only can he help them at guard right away, Richardson could represent a replacement at right tackle for Free in 2015.

Without Costa, they have no back up center for Frederick and Bernadeau is the only one with some experience at center. Adding a guard in the draft becomes a must for Dallas.

Richardson is huge (6-5, 329) and his strength is power blocking straight ahead. Has the strength/power to be a real asset in short yardage particularly at the goal line. I noticed on video that Baylor preferred running behind Richardson at the goal line and he came through for them over and over again. Putting him next to center Travis Frederick, will give the Dallas run game a significant push up front particularly in 3rd or 4th and one.

It’s in pass protection where Richardson needs to improve and where he received criticism at the Senior Bowl practices early in the year. He certainly moves well when asked to pull and he can hold up to a bull rush for sure but I saw weakness on video when defensive lines ran stunts and Richardson was asked to adjust laterally. I believe offensive line coach Bill Callahan can help his game much like he helped young Pro Bowl OT Tyron Smith who had to learn left tackle.

Last season in my mock draft, I had Dallas selecting guard Larry Warford in the 2nd round but the Lions drafted him instead. Warford went on to have an outstanding rookie season and was even PFF’s offensive rookie of the year. I don’t think Dallas can afford to pass on drafting a guard this time.

With this selection, Dallas adds much needed quality depth at guard and finds one in either Jackson or Richardson, that has the potential to start very soon.

4th Round: LB Christian Jones- Florida State
Still working on that weak Dallas defense, I have them picking up some much needed depth at LB and a guy who offers an upgrade over Bruce Carter in pass coverage. Last season, too often Carter appeared a step slow in covering backs out of the backfield such as Danny Woodhead of the Chargers. Offenses exploited this weakness so Dallas needs a guy with the speed to play the “Will” LB.

Jones is a 2nd Team All ACC player in 2012 and 2013. He played middle LB last year and played the “Will” in 2012 which is where I think he can help Dallas the most. In the 2012 season, he led the team in tackles with 95. Jones ran a 4.74 time in the 40 and his speed really shows up big on video watching the FSU national championship season. Capable of covering TEs and RBs out of the backfield and also excellent at pursuing the run sideline to sideline.

At 6′-3 and 240, he has good size to fight though blocks to get to the ball. A very athletic LB that should fit in well in their 4-3 defense and he is described as a player that loves football. Jones is an excellent special teams player in covering kicks and can help right away in that area. Versatile enough to fill in at any of the LB spots when needed.

There has been speculation that Sean Lee may get moved to weak side LB next season to decrease his chance of injury. If so, Jones represents a very solid option at MLB. He can play any of the three LB positions and he likely will be needed at some point in the season.

With this pick, not only does Dallas add quality depth at LB, but a potential starter. Jones offers an option at LB that Dallas will be glad to have at some point in the season.

5th Round: WR Jeff Janis- Saginaw Valley State
Miles Austin is going to be cut and while rookie Terrance Williams developed into a solid replacement last season, it still will leave Dallas with a net loss at the WR position. They kept 5 WRs last season and without Austin, they will have four on the current roster.

Janis played at the same school that gave us safety Jeff Heath last season. Janis has good size for a WR at 6-3 219, and outstanding speed with a 4.42 time in the 40 at the combine. That’s even faster than top rated WR Sammy Watkins. Janis was also a top performer in the 3 cone drill and he had a strong performance on the bench press.

Janis has plenty of size/strength to get off pressing corners and also enough speed to get behind coverage as a deep threat.

Janis was productive at Saginaw Valley with 1,572 yards and 14 TDs. He averaged over 18 yards per catch so the former running back can provide yards after the catch, as Austin has over the years.

With this pick, Dallas adds a WR with impressive size and excellent speed representing good value in the 5th round. A very capable back up that can develop into a starter in the future.

No 6th round pick but now 6 Picks in the 7th round
Mock 2.0 comment- Dallas is not allowed to trade their three compensatory picks.

7th Round: DT Jay Bromley -Syracuse
Another defensive tackle? Yes, I think Coach Rod Marinelli will be very intentional about fixing up his defensive line that lacked depth last season. Bromley represents good value here as a DT capable of getting in the rotation right away.

Bromley moves very well and is a natural fit in the 4-3 defense as a three technique. He is capable of playing any position across the 4-3 front line (even DE) which will be useful. A three year starter that was named All ACC Third Team after 10 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Described as very coachable with good leadership ability and he was a team captain.

With this pick, Marinelli adds more depth to his defensive line rotation in DT Jason Bromley who represents nice value in the 7th round.

7th Round: RB DeAnthony Thomas- Oregon: Lance Dunbar is expected to recover from injury and play a large role in the Dallas offense as a receiver out of the backfield. Thomas can step into that role if Dunbar is not healed up, or gets injured again. Thomas ran a 4.50/40 time and can contribute as a kick returner right away. A very capable pass receiver and provides explosiveness similar to Dunbar in the open field. It would be wise for Dallas to think about a Dunbar replacement just in case and “Dat” (Thomas nickname) set records returning KOs and punts at Oregon.
HIGHLIGHTS of Thomas at Oregon.

7th Round: FB J.C. Copeland- LSU: I’m not usually big on drafting a fullback but when you have 6 picks in the 7th, why not? Good FBs and RBs can be found late in the draft.

Jason Garrett appears to want to get away from using a FB at all in the offense but every year they seem to search for a lead blocker for short yardage situations. Described as a 5-11, 271 pound human wrecking ball, Copeland is a converted defensive lineman who knows how to clear a path for a running back. Can catch the ball too, but mostly he is there to help get Murray in the endzone.

Three Compensatory Picks in the 7th

7th Round: FS Jonathan Dowling -Western Kentucky
Free agent Safety Danny McCray signed with the Bears leaving a spot open. The Cowboys have young safeties Jeff Heath and JJ Wilcox that they hope will develop next season but adding another guy in the mix doesn’t hurt just in case.

Dowling transferred from Florida to Western Kentucky and he comes with some questionable character issues related to his time at Florida. While his attitude may be questionable, his athletic ability certainly isn’t. He reminds me of CB Janoris Jenkins who transferred from Florida because of issues but was drafted by the Rams in 2012. Jenkins proved to be a pretty good player.

On film, Dowling displays outstanding free safety instincts. A true ball hawk which Dallas has been looking for at the position. He has ideal size for a safety at 6-3, 190 and also has long arms (33 1/8″) which help. He is one of the fastest safeties in the draft running a 4.52/40. Dowling covers a lot of ground in a short time and knows how to play over the top in a defense like a Tampa 2 requires.

The previous two seasons he had 9 INTs (3 in Kentucky game) and 8 forced fumbles. Represents a good special teams contributor in kick coverage as well.

Without the character red flags, Dowling would be projected to go much earlier. He has the potential to be a difference maker and that makes him worth investing a 7th round pick on. He does come with risks but with this pick, Dallas may find the ball hawk safety they have been looking for.

7th Round: OT Wesley Johnson- Vanderbilt: Like that he has played every position on the offensive line including center, so he is capable of providing depth across the entire Cowboys offensive line. Described as a high character guy and a two time team captain. A good pass protector and light on his feet as a top performer in the 3 cone drill at the combine, among linemen.

7th Round: QB Jeff Mathews- Cornell
Coming off back surgery, no one really knows how Romo will hold up during 16 games next season, although he appears to be recovering fine.

Backup QB Kyle Orton may retire and Dallas added QB Brandon Weeden from the Browns. They usually keep just two QBs on the roster. While drafting a QB is not a huge need, drafting a developmental QB in the 7th and parking him on the practice squad for a season, could pay off in 2015. He will at least help them get through preseason games while Romo recovers from surgery.

Make no mistake, Jeff Mathews is not currently NFL ready as he does represent a project. What I like are the traits he possesses that can’t be coached such as his 6-4 height and his strong NFL caliber arm. Also a team captain for 3 seasons which was a first at Cornell. Good addition to the locker room.

Very productive career as he rewrote the record books setting Ivy League records with 11,284 yards and 18- 300 yard games. Mathews reminds me of QB Alex Tanney who the Browns signed off the Cowboys practice squad last season.

Mathews needs to be coached up on throwing mechanics as he tends to hold the ball too long, and often doesn’t display proper foot work consistently. But an intelligent player for sure, who should be very coachable in those areas of weakness. An accurate passer and on film, his throws down the field are impressive. Makes deep throws effortlessly.